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Orange Sky Australia-creating a safe, positive and supportive environment for people who are too often ignored or feel disconnected from the community.
Most of us don’t know what it’s like to spend a night on the street, but nearly all of us could relate to being cash-strapped at some time. An unexpected bill, a medical emergency or maybe the breakdown of a relationship-it doesn’t take long before money is tight….too tight.
Orange Sky Australia helps by creating a safe, positive and supportive environment for such people, who are far too often ignored and feel disconnected from the community. Orange Sky deliberately connects our friends in need by offering free laundry, showers and most importantly conversation. The Orange Sky Volunteers are ordinary Australians who are simply empathetic listeners, and great conversationalists.
In 2014, 20-year-olds Nic Marchesi and Lucas Patchett set out to help those experiencing homelessness in Brisbane by providing free laundry to those they call our “Friends on the street”. Nic and Lucas installed donated laundry machines into their old van ‘Sudsy ’and headed out. With the machines in full swing, there wasn’t a lot left to do but sit down and chat. That’s where they learnt the real impact of the service. Having clean clothes was important but giving time to people and genuinely listening to their experiences meant so much more.
That’s why at Orange Sky, the mission doesn’t involve the words ‘laundry’ or ‘washing’- their mission is simply to positively connect communities. The most important pieces of infrastructure are six orange chairs which emerge wherever the van stops.
Every day Orange Sky volunteers are witness to the power of how a simple conversation and connection to others can change a life. When they first met Harry in Brisbane, he was without a home, but given access to genuine conversation, Harry taught the Orange Sky volunteers that the absence of a human connections is more significant than the of a roof over your head. Harry no longer uses the laundry service, but still meets up with the van every week for a chat on the six orange chairs.
Nic and Lucas grew the influence of Orange Sky, becoming Young Australians of the year in 2016, but that glory didn’t distract from their focus for a moment. Having established vans in centres across Australia, bringing these connections to people in need, together with clean laundry and warm shower, Orange Sky has turned attention to remote communities. Lockhart River was the first remote service established, where an ex-defence truck custom-fitted with two washing machines and three dryers has been proudly named Phytham by the local community and is adorned with artworks by local artists. In Lockhart River, Orange Sky is supporting community-driven ideas aimed at improving hygiene standards along with the opportunity for a yarn.
Orange Sky now also helps people made homeless by natural disasters-from floods in Townsville through to the Victorian Bushfires, demonstrating how something as simple as clean laundry can bring normalcy back to people’s lives.
More than anything, the strength of connection is the most powerful contribution Orange Sky brings to our friends on the street. Even during this pandemic, Orange Sky is classified as an essential service and delivers their usual service with minimal risk to friends on the street and to volunteers.
Every week around Australia, volunteers sit on orange chairs and chat. There, they experience first-hand the tough realities for our friends on the street. But more than that, they learn the power of connection and conversation.
Those six orange chairs are where barriers are broken down, stereotypes are challenged, relationships are built, and connections are formed. Every day at Orange Sky is a demonstration of how a positive connection can transform a person’s life. They are passionate about helping to connect people all around Australia-and soon the world.